My rating: 4 of 5 stars
King Solomon‘s Mines (1885) by Sir Henry Rider Haggard, a great adventure writer of his time, especially with novels, like this one, that follow the quests of Allan Quatermain.
King Solomon‘s Mines is a grand journey across the Kalukawe River and into the great desert that spans some forty leagues and toward Sheba’s Breasts, the mighty snow capped mountains that bar the way to Solomon’s Road and to Kukuanaland where the Kukuana guard the diamond mines from ages past.
The story begins with Allan Quatermain being hired by Sir Henry Curtis and Captain John Good to help them track down Curtis’s brother who sought Solomon’s diamond mines some two years before. On their journey, Quatermain hires on Umbopa, a native of extraordinary stature and who turns out to be named Ignosi, the rightful heir of the Kukuana.
Most of the book revolves around Umbopa/Ignosi and his struggles to regain power in Kukuanaland. He is aided by Quatermain, Curtis, and Cpt. Good, and for their reward they are granted access to the diamond mines, except the evil witch Gagool has other plans for the ‘white men from the stars’.
The story is fast paced and could have easily been written in these modern times. Haggard, writing as Quatermain, states thus: “And now it only remains for me to offer apologies for my blunt way of writing…I suppose they– the flights and flourishes– are desirable, and I regret not being able to supply them,” and he adds the Kukuana saying [which might be best quoted by any writer] that “a sharp spear needs no polish” (8).
And this book is a prime example of Flaubert’s influence with Madame Bovary (1856) that sought a straightforward, realistic approach to writing often quoted as “le mot juste.”
A few passages I found enjoyable now follow:
“Yes,” answered Sir Henry, “it is far. But there is no journey upon this earth that a man may not make if he sets his heart to it. There is nothing, Umbopa, that he cannot do. There are no mountains he may not climb, there are no deserts he cannot cross, save a mountain and a desert of which you are spared the knowledge, if love leads him and he holds his life in his hand counting it as nothing, ready to keep it or lose it as heaven above may order” (50).
Now one more for good measure:
“As soon as she was lifted from her hammock Gagool cast one evil glare upon us; then, leaning on a stick, she hobbled off towards the face of this wall. We followed her till we came to a narrow portal solidly arched that looked like the opening of a gallery of a mine.
“Here Gagool was waiting for us, with a devilish grin upon her horrid face.
” ‘Now, white men from the stars.’ she piped; ‘great warriors, Incubu, Bougwan and Macumazahn the wise, are ye ready? Behold, I am here to do the bidding of my lord the king, and to show you the store of bright stones. Ha! ha! ha!’ (182-183).
King Solomon‘s Mines is a fun adventure story that takes the reader into a mysterious land and people in search of the greatest treasure the world has ever known, but along the way there are certain lessons to be learned, and one may find that of all the diamonds in the world, there is nothing like the treasure home may provide. A recommend for those who love stories, and for those who enjoy books that are difficult to close.
The American novelist CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy), a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU, & he’s a been member of the Hemingway Society, Americans for the Arts, PEN America, Club Med, & the Royal Society of Literature. He’s also a been Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) based in London.
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father’s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), The Mystic’s Smile ~ A Play in 3 Acts (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), Little Hometown, America (2020); A Time to Forget in East Berlin (2022), and Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being (2023).
Forthcoming: The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979.
You can follow the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 470,000+ followers
“A spellbinding tale of love and espionage set under the looming shadow of the Berlin Wall in 1975… A mesmerising read full of charged eroticism.”
“There is no better way for readers interested in Germany’s history and the dilemma and cultures of the two Berlins to absorb this information than in a novel such as this, which captures the microcosm of two individuals’ love, relationship, and options and expands them against the blossoming dilemmas of a nation divided.”
~ D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
“Readers of The Catcher in the Rye and similar stories will relish the astute, critical inspection of life that makes Little Hometown, America a compelling snapshot of contemporary American life and culture.”
“Fewston employs a literary device called a ‘frame narrative’ which may be less familiar to some, but allows for a picture-in-picture result (to use a photographic term). Snapshots of stories appear as parts of other stories, with the introductory story serving as a backdrop for a series of shorter stories that lead readers into each, dovetailing and connecting in intricate ways.”
“The American novelist CG FEWSTON tells a satisfying tale, bolstered by psychology and far-ranging philosophy, calling upon Joseph Campbell, J. D. Salinger, the King James Bible, and Othello.”
“In this way, the author lends intellectual heft to a family story, exploring the ‘purity’ of art, the ‘corrupting’ influences of publishing, the solitary artist, and the messy interconnectedness of human relationships.”
GOLD Winner in the 2020 Human Relations Indie Book Awards for Contemporary Realistic Fiction
FINALIST in the SOUTHWEST REGIONAL FICTION category of the 14th Annual National Indie Excellence 2020 Awards (NIEA)
“Fewston’s lyrical, nostalgia-steeped story is told from the perspective of a 40-year-old man gazing back on events from his 1980s Texas childhood…. the narrator movingly conveys and interprets the greater meanings behind childhood memories.”
“The novel’s focus on formative childhood moments is familiar… the narrator’s lived experiences come across as wholly personal, deeply felt, and visceral.”
American Novelist CG FEWSTON
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Stay safe & stay happy. God bless.
Nico Murillo Bio ~ Americans & Texans for Safe Access ~ Medical Cannabis